Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hard to Find

In October of 1963,  Flannery O'Connor read her short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, to an audience at Hollins College in Virginia. This passage is taken from the comments that preceded that reading and can be found in the book, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose.
I've talked to a number of teachers who use [A Good Man is Hard to Find] in class and who tell their students that the Grandmother is evil, that in fact, she's a witch, even down to the cat. One of these teachers told me that his students, and particularly his Southern students, resisted this interpretation with a certain bemused vigor, and he didn't understand why. I had to tell him that they resisted it because they all had grandmothers or great-aunts just like her at home, and they knew, from personal experience, that the old lady lacked comprehension, but that she had a good heart. The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence, and he knows that a taste for self-preservation can be readily combined with the missionary spirit.
"The old lady lacked comprehension, but . . . had a good heart." I have to commend any student or author or reader who is willing to grant this concession to those with whom they disagree. I find that this is precisely what is lacking in our public discourse on all sides, which is tragic because it's the only thing that could possibly breach the wall that deafens both the right and left to their opposite numbers.


1 comment:

  1. Clearly the person who introduced that bill has neither comprehension nor a good heart. :-)

    But seriously, that willingness is indeed lacking.

    I'm a little startled at the teachers she's describing.

    "a taste for self-preservation can be readily combined with the missionary spirit." All the way back to St. Peter, or for that matter Jonah.